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Training and the law

Age and the Law section image - justice symbol scales

Basic position

Employers, training agencies, qualifications bodies and all further and higher education institutions providing training must comply with the age provisions of the Equality Act 2010. This means it is unlawful to treat individuals less favourably because of their age:

  • in selecting who should be provided training
  • in the terms on which training is provided
  • by refusing access to training
  • by the adverse treatment of learners during training
  • by terminating the training

unless the employer can justify the reason for the treatment objectively.

You can challenge a failure to consider you for training in employment because of your age even if you have not actually made an application for training and been rejected.

What is vocational training?

Vocational training includes all types and all levels of training which are related to:

  • employment
  • vocational guidance
  • facilities for training
  • practical work experience (Jobcentre Plus); and
  • assessment related to the award of any professional or trade qualification.

If someone believes the training is non-vocational, it is still a good idea to check by seeking independent legal advice.

When can a training provider justify restricting training on the grounds of age?

There are certain, very limited situations where training providers may be able to restrict access to training on the grounds of age:

1.  Where age is a genuine occupational requirement.

If an age related characteristics is a requirement of the job. This may apply to theatre, film or modelling training, for example.

2.  Where an employer would not see any return on the money they invest in training an individual because he or she is too close to retirement.

A 50-year-old is still potentially 15 or more years away from retirement, so there would not really be any distinction between younger age groups to justify restricting that individual from undertaking one week's induction or other specialist training. In practice, this restriction could be hard to justify unless an individual was only one or two years away from retirement or the employer would not see a return in the remaining employment years as a result of the length and cost of the course.

3.  'Positive action’ targeting training at an under-represented age group) would be lawful.

An IT course targeted at older workers could potentially be justified if the older workers have lower levels of IT skills and qualifications than younger ones, or are under-represented in such programmes generally. The aim is to
prevent or compensate for disadvantages linked to age suffered by persons of that age or age group.

Funding of training

The Government has made it clear that state funding for training and education is not covered by the legislation and so individuals cannot claim for age discrimination if such funding is restricted or denied to them.



This site is for help and information only. It is not meant as an authoritative guide. It is not meant as an authoritative statement of the law, and future changes in the law and other programmes and initiatives could make it less accurate at times. TAEN, the Department for Work and Pensions and the European Social Fund take no responsibility for your use of the information. You should always take professional advice on any specific legal or financial matter.